Home > Spring (Evermore Academy #2)(3)

Spring (Evermore Academy #2)(3)
Author: Audrey Grey

“Whoever he answers to glamoured him into secrecy. There are ways to break past a glamour that powerful, but most would result in his death, and Cal’s father is a high-ranking general in the Winter Court.” Valerian runs a finger over the sharp tip of his ear. “Back home, our lands are increasingly under attack from the darkling scourge, and we need the general more than ever. Still, if it were up to me and not my father, I would have punished him appropriately.”

I shiver. I know exactly what appropriately means, and it involves the dark side of Fae justice.

Not that Cal wouldn’t deserve to be murdered in the most creative ways imaginable. But . . . still. It’s just another reminder of how different the Fae and the human world is, and all the problems that arise from merging them.

To my left, near a wrought iron set of patio furniture, movement catches my eye. A blur wavers in the air. Once my eyes pierce the glamour, my lips stretch into a grin.

“Hey, Asher!” I call.

The dragon shifter blinks at me with those huge moss-green eyes, his black-tipped gray wings pulled tight to his back. Sunlight swims along the leathery wings, illuminating delicate green markings. “Hey, Summer.”

“Mack’s inside, if you . . . you know, maybe want to say hi?”

He frowns, tugging at his shoulder-length brown hair, pulled back into a man-bun only Asher could pull off. “I’m on duty.”

Right. Now that someone knows Valerian’s name, it’s only a matter of time before they strike again.

I glance around, searching the premises for the other guards Eclipsa assigned to Valerian when she’s not available. But she chose well, and not a single one gives up their position.

Unable to keep finding things to distract myself from Valerian, I turn to my mate. His eyes fall to my lips, but he tears his gaze away, hands me a small, thin present wrapped in ice-blue wrapping paper and ivory ribbon, and says, “Eclipsa said mortals celebrate their birth dates with presents, so . . . this is for you.”

The moment I strip the last shred of paper from the gift and spy the delicate silver frame, heavy and cold against my fingers, I know who’s inside.

My stomach somersaults as I stare at the three figures. “Valerian, where did you get this?”

“I visited the Summer realm a few weeks ago.” He shrugs, the cavalier gesture shifting his black tee to reveal the pale skin of his upper chest. “The wards around the Summer Court palace have grown weak. I was able to break into your old room and steal the miniature portrait. Thought you might want it.”

“You could have started a war.” Even during the best of times, the Summer Court and the Winter Court are one incident away from full-blown battle.

“Being able to give you a piece of your stolen history is totally worth the risk.”

I turn the picture over in my hand, my mind reeling.

Summer, meet your parents and dead self.

My little pep talk falls flat. The people inside—my real parents—feel like strangers. My mother, the Fae Summer Queen, wears a sumptuous green and gold brocade gown, her red hair teased into a thick net that’s pulled up in a spiderweb of green ribbons and pinned with gold-and-black butterflies. The Summer King, my father and also the man who killed me, sits proudly in a matching green and gold jacket.

And the girl that sits on a throne between them, wearing the crown of ivy, poppies, and bellflowers—

I flip the picture facedown, unable to bear looking at it anymore. “Thanks. Really.”

“You don’t like it?”

“No, the opposite. It’s the best birthday gift anyone’s ever given me. It’s just . . . a lot to take in.”

Another pause. The tension between us grows. I stare at the ice prince, the Fae male I’m tied to by soulmagic and fate’s terrible sense of humor, and wonder if there’s a way to bridge our differences.

No matter how my body responds to him, my mind still warns that he—and the world he represents—is dangerous.

Is it possible to love someone you can’t be with? To want them in every possible way, knowing giving in to that desire could destroy you completely?

I catch Asher gesturing something to Valerian, but the prince’s expression is unreadable as he ignores the dragon shifter, his focus never wavering from me.

His normally silver-blue irises are like mercury in the bright sun, and they regard me for what feels like an eternity, shaded by a thick blue fan of eyelashes.

Finally, he reaches out. I freeze as I feel his hands slide over my hips, his fingertips pressing deep into my flesh. Reminding me of when he touched me once before.

Slowly, as if letting our bodies get used to each other, he pulls me to him.

3

Titania save me, I want to devour Valerian whole. His scent—juniper and balsam and cedar—his devilishly bowed lips, that intoxicating familiarity I’ve never felt with anyone else . . . all of it threatens to undo me.

“Summer,” he breathes, hardly daring to move as he stares into my eyes, “I know you asked for time, and I’m giving it to you. But tell me you won’t fight our bond forever. As long as I know there’s hope, I can deal with the agony of not being able to have you. To claim you the way every cell in my body demands.”

I bristle at that word, claim, even as my traitorous body begs for it. To be claimed, possessed, devoured whole. I want to sink into him. To inhale him like he’s a Bath & Body Works store during clearance. I want to kiss him until my lips are numb with cold and my belly smolders with heat and I can no longer remember my name.

Bad, Summer. Bad!

Biting the inside of my lip, I stand my ground. “You talk like I’m something to be possessed and used up, but that’s not love.”

A wry smile plays over his lips. “Love?”

For the Evermore, who live for thousands of years, love is antiquated. A naive emotion that fades quickly and serves very little purpose, except perhaps to trick and entrap.

I square my chin and look him in the eye. “Yes, love. You may not like it, but a part of me is mortal, and we expect the whole shebang. The sappy courting, the over-priced chocolates and roses, the Hallmark cards where you underline words like love and forever, the milestone like the first fight over who ate the last ice cream sandwich or forgot to throw the wet clothes into the dryer and now they’re all mildewed and . . .”

Why am I even trying? This is the part he will never understand. The boring, mundane parts of a relationship we humans need.

He blinks, a divot appearing between his eyebrows. “I don’t understand half of what you’re saying, but you and I did have something like that once.”

Right. The girl inside the picture. The Fae Evermore whose parents I don’t remember, whose life I can’t recall, whose emotions are a mystery to me.

“You say that, but I don’t even know what you like. What’s your favorite type of music? Your favorite food? Favorite color? Do you prefer briefs or boxers or—”

“Pretty sure you know that one,” he adds, a dark grin spreading across his handsome face and reminding me why my favorite nickname for him is ILB.

When I go to protest, he adds, “I like you, Summer. What does it matter about colors or food or anything else?”

“It just does.” I cross my arms, pretending my body doesn't react to the throaty purr in his voice. “You don’t get it. How can I give myself to a stranger?”

A near-imperceptible flinch ripples across his countenance. Never taking his gaze off my lips, he drags his knuckles gently across my jaw. “Then get to know me, Princess. All of me.”

Fae ears, everything about him—from his voice to his smoldering eyes to the way his fingers press into my flesh—drips sex and desire.

Which is exactly why I can’t trust my feelings around him.

I exhale, trying to break the spell his presence has over me. “What about your father? I thought he would get suspicious if we’re together.”

“I’ll take care of him.” His sharp features harden with determination. Whoa, he’s sexy when he’s serious—

I clear my throat. “And the school?”

“Everyone thinks I’m still with Inara.”

Oh, that. Of all the reasons—plural—falling for the Winter Prince is a bad idea, his pretend relationship with Inara is the worst. Both let the ruse that they’re still together play out, although for very different reasons.

Inara refuses because her ego can’t handle publicly losing him. And Valerian goes along with the rumor that they’re still together for my safety. Because as long as his father and all the other courts think their engagement is still on, no one will pay any attention to his interest in me.

“I could be expelled,” I remind him.

He smiles, the grin so arrogant that I’m reminded how much power he commands. “No, you couldn’t. One word from me and the headmistress won’t touch you.”

“Okay. What about what happened to Evelyn?” A blush creeps over my cheeks at the thought.

“You mean, what if you became pregnant?” he asks softly. “There are herbs to prevent pregnancy as well as spells. What happened to your friend was a tragedy, but that won’t happen to you—if you choose to give yourself to me.”

Give myself to him? Like a shiny present ready to be unwrapped? I shiver, a pulse of warmth hitting me square in the chest as I imagine his deft fingers slowly undressing me—

No, Summer. We all know where that road leads—darkling city. So unless you enjoy being a zombie who dines on Fae flesh, knock it off.

As if he can hear my thoughts, he leans forward, his wavy ink-colored hair sweeping over his forehead, and brushes his mouth over mine. “What we share will never be simple. It’s always going to be messy and complicated and dangerous.”

The second our lips meet, a wave of need rushes over me, so thick I can’t breathe.

“But screw easy. Easy’s boring.” He nips at my bottom lip. “You can’t tell me this isn’t worth fighting for.”

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